TERRY GROSS, host:
Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles is a Boston-area band raised on punk rock and country music. Their new album, "The Stars Are Out," contains five original songs and five covers from artists ranging from the The Lemonheads to NRBQ. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(Soundbite of song, "Do It for Free")
Ms. SARAH BORGES (Lead Singer, Broken Singles): (Singing) Hey you over there, what you looking at. I feel there's some kind of problem, where (unintelligible) got mad, mad……
KEN TUCKER (Rock Critic, Entertainment Weekly): The album is called "The Stars Are Out" with a picture of a glittering night sky on the cover to make sure you don't think the title is a pun because Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles are certainly not stars. The group's primary charm, communicated very well on this album, is that it's an old fashioned bar band, playing a mixture of original material and covers of others hits. What lifts "The Star Are Out" above the work of most bar bands is that Borges and her cohorts are able to put their own mark on the material they didn't write. Such as this nicely moody version of a Stephen Merritt Magnetic Field's song called "No One Will Ever Love You."
(Soundbite of song, "No One Will Ever Love You")
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) If you don't mind why don't you mind, where is your sense of indignation. You are too kind, much too kind. Where is the madness that you promised me. Where is the dream for which I paid dearly…
Mr. TUCKER: I'd wager the line that caught Sarah Borges's ear in that song was no one will ever love you honestly, since the honesty and dishonesty in relationships runs through her recordings like an electrical current. When you combine that theme with the band's fondness with the pop side of punk rock, it's no wonder they latched onto this fine semi-obscure song by Any Trouble. That was a British band that recorded for Stiff Records, once home to Elvis Costello and Nick Low, among many others.
(Soundbite of song, "I Don't Want To Be Your Lover")
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) I don't want to be a lover. I just want to hold you for the best (unintelligible). It would be another, closing your eyes and now you keep all the light (unintelligible). That is (unintelligible). Girl, we've been together now for so long. I can't tell you and anything but hear and now. I didn't want to hear it anyhow, (unintelligible) thing that got to you. If there is love……
Mr. TUCKER: No Boston area band in the past 40 years seems able to have escaped the influence of one of that city's signature acts, The J. Giles band. As Borges and the Broken Singles demonstrate with their own composition "I'll Show You How." It's a chunk of bluesy rock, featuring honking harmonica fills, reminiscent of Giles band member Magic Dick.
(Soundbite of song, "I'll Show You How")
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) Baby why you walk out of that door? Baby, why you want to hurt me some more? When all (unintelligible). But please don't ruin or else (unintelligible) won't save me. Why you want to hurt me more. (Unintelligible) outside but that's okay. Alright, (unintelligible) next wants to go to heaven tonight. Till then I want you to watch all over again. But now, you can come over and I'll show you how.
Mr. TUCKER: Sarah Borges and the three guys who form the Broken Singles build their own material not just around Borges's voice, which can cut across the guitars like a knife, but also around their shared fondness for pop music history - mixing and matching. Take for example, "Me And Your Ghost," in which Borges does some channeling of Lesley Gore circa "It's My Party," girl-group harmony, and Mersey-beat rhythms. It's a '60s throwback free of camp or irony.
(Soundbite of song, "Me And Your Ghost")
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) I think I was going to put (unintelligible), one night torn dresses. Won't miss the boy in the bay, the one that who could kill me in the (unintelligible). And I'm…
Mr. TUCKER: The question here is whether good taste in pop music history and deft skill at reproducing a wide range of styles can cohere as something original. In this, I'm not entirely convinced. Certainly the group's eclecticism, to paraphrase the NRBQ song they cover here, comes to them naturally. But originality can be overrated. Sometimes coming up with a great set list for your live act, which is basically what "The Stars Are Out" amounts to as a collection songs, is its own reward. Listen to Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles and you want to get out of your house or apartment and hear some live music.
In this, the band is a fine motivator, a reminder of how much fun music can be, making it and hearing it. Being played by people for whom it means absolutely everything. A feeling they just want to share.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is Editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "The Stars Are Out" by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. You can download podcasts of our show on our website: freshair.npr.org. I'm Terry Gross.
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